That’s not my bi history!
It needs us to tell it how it is – and how it was
In 2010, I went to two events to mark LGBT History Month. Both of them left me thinking, ‘this is not my history’.
One was an event that promised to talk about bisexuality, but the presentation skipped most of the last 25 years worth of bisexual community activism. When I asked a question that referenced BCN – one of the longest running bi projects in the country, after all – it got blank looks from the speaker. So many theorists, activists, events, publications, erased from the record presented. And knowing that for other attendees, if I didn’t challenge what was being said, then it was likely they’d go away taking the history presented as fair and true.
The other was a tour of Manchester’s LGBT history landmarks. It only really touched on lesbian and gay stuff, and brazenly brushed over the city council’s notorious biphobia, claiming they had long been on the side of LGBT. We weren’t told about how the council insisted right through the 90s that everyone is either gay or straight. Instead we had recited the authorised version of the city council’s record on LGBT issues. So much erased.
Now, as a bi activist I’m used to bi erasure in LG and LGBT spaces as well as the mainstream. It’s a large part of what got me involved in making bi spaces and inky publications like BCN happen.
But I don’t think we bis have done a good job in the past of recording our story, both of our work within the bi community and that within the wider LGBT liberation movement. Probably because bi organising as such has tended to be done on a wing and a prayer, we’ve been too busy trying to make things happen, and have tended to shy away from telling our story in anything like the same way as the L, the G and the T tell theirs.
But it’s already more than forty years on from the decriminalisation of sex between men. Thirty years since bi activism in the UK arguably began with the first London Bi Group. If we don’t start to record our bi history soon, it will get more and more difficult. Memories fade over time.
Let’s start recording and sharing our history – and let’s start telling it. Heaven knows, if we don’t no-one else is going to get it right.